NTIA Chief: IANA Hand-Off Key To Internet Freedom

National Telecommunications & Information Administration chief Larry Strickling says moves like handing off oversight off ICANN's authority over Internet naming conventions is the best way to preserve Internet freedom.

Conversely, he told a Washington audience at the Internet Governance Forum USA, "what will not be effective to protect Internet freedom is to continue the IANA functions contract."

Back in March, the National Telecommunications & Information Administration (NTIA) said it hoped to have a decision by June on whether or not it approved of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) plan to transition stewardship of the IANA (Internet Assigned Numbers Authority), which oversees domain naming conventions, from the U.S. to a multistakeholder model. NTIA succeeded with room to spare, but there remains work to be done.

It made that deadline, deciding last month that the multinational, multistakeholder plan for overseeing internet domain naming functions meets its criteria for handing over oversight.

The current NTIA contract with ICANN expires at the end of September, but it can be extended if need be. Strickling makes it clear he does not thing it needs to be.

In a lengthy speech to the forum, according to a copy of his prepared text supplied to B&C/MultiChannel News,he said the contract is too limited to be an effective tool for protecting Internet freedom.

"Extending the contract, as some have asked us to do, could actually lead to the loss of Internet freedom we all want to maintain," he said. The potential for serious consequences from extending the contract beyond the time necessary for ICANN to complete implementation of the transition plan is very real and has implications for ICANN, the multistakeholder model and the credibility of the United States in the global community."

Citing the Global Commission on Internet Governance, he said that failure to adopt the transition proposal would “send the wrong message to the international community, increase distrust, and will likely encourage some governments to pursue their own national or even regional Internets.”

Strickling also doubled down on his promise that NTICA "would not accept a plan that replaced NTIA’s role with a government-led or intergovernmental organization solution."

He took aim at criticisms of the transition, saying it would not be "giving away" the Internet, and certainly not to Russia and China or any other authoritarian government.

He also said ICANN is not moving its headquarters out of Los Angeles and that the transition is not some radical rush job pushed by the Obama Administration.

"How can anyone call a longstanding bipartisan policy to privatize the Internet radical? The direction to privatize the domain name system goes back nearly twenty years," he said. "The community spent two years to develop its plan. No one rushed the community effort. To the contrary, we extended the contract for a year when the community said it needed more time to complete its work. Nothing is being rushed here and to suggest otherwise is to ignore the facts."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.